Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 192,000 in February, following upwardly revised estimates for January and December that, in sum, added 58,000. Private payroll gains outpaced the headline increase, rising by 222,000 in February as government payrolls slipped down by 30,000 (the loss was roughly split between state and local governments). Over the past three months, private payroll gains have averaged 152,000, compared to an average monthly gain of 107,000 over the previous twelve months. Goods-producing employment increased by 70,000 in February, posting its largest monthly gain in five years. Part of the reason for the relatively strong increase was that construction payrolls jumped up by 33,000, reversing a (likely weather-related) 22,000 decline in January. Manufacturing employment also rose by 33,000, but this came on the heels of an upwardly revised 53,000 increase in January. The durables sector accounted for nearly all of February’s gain, continuing its recent trend. Since December 2009, durables employment has risen 233,000, while nondurables payrolls have decreased 37,000. On the service side, February payroll gains were led by healthcare and social assistance (up 36,200), leisure and hospitality (up 21,000), and temporary help services (up 15,500). Retail trade payrolls decreased by 8,000 in February, partially reversing a 31,000 gain in January.
A positive sign buried in the details: the one-month diffusion index for private establishments—a measure of the breadth but not intensity of employment gains—jumped up from 60.1 percent to 68.2 percent in February (its highest level since May 1998). On the household side, the unemployment rate edged down from 9.0 percent to 8.9 percent as the number of unemployed persons fell by 190,000, outpacing an increase in the labor force by 60,000. While there are some technical reasons to discount the recent decrease in the unemployment rate, it still has fallen by nearly a percentage point over the past three months. In contrast, the employment-to-population ratio has only improved by 0.2 percent to 58.4 percent over that time period.